When it comes to caring for children, Christine Finck, MD, has a big heart and lots of love to share.
Dr. Finck, who is Surgeon-in-Chief at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, has performed life-saving surgery on hundreds of children over the years. Thirteen years ago, at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia, one of the children she saved was a tiny baby named Isabelle–a baby she and her husband, John Laplante, decided to adopt.
“It seems like yesterday,” said Dr. Finck, whose inspirational story about her daughter first appeared on Connecticut Children’s website in 2015 in a blog post titled, “She came from my heart, not from my belly…” Today, the story is stirring hearts everywhere, as it was selected by Hallmark for its May 2018 campaign, “She Cared Enough to Share Her Heart.”
It should come as no surprise that to Dr. Finck, family is everything. She and John have three children, including Isabelle, 13, Madeline, 9, and John Michael, 6. “They are the center of my world,” she said.
For Dr. Finck—who specializes in neonatal surgery, diseases of premature newborns, lung abnormalities, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), bariatric surgery for adolescents and minimally invasive surgery—the way in which their eldest daughter became part of her family is almost the making of a Hallmark movie.
“The call came at around 11 p.m.,” Dr. Finck recalls in her blog. “I wiped the sleep from my eyes and listened to the neonatal intensivist tell me about a premature baby being born at another hospital with gastroschisis, a condition where all the intestines are outside the body. When I got to the unit, I was struck by the small peanut that greeted me. Despite having all her intestines not where they were supposed to be, she was feisty! Her bright blue eyes seemed to be smiling at me. Her young mom was still at the hospital and I described what I needed to do. She told me her little girl’s name was Isabelle.”
Dr. Finck goes on to describe Isabelle’s challenging first year in which she required many operations to fix her intestines. As her primary surgeon, Dr. Finck said she would end her visits by holding Isabelle’s tiny hand.
When it finally came time for Isabelle to be discharged home, her young mother returned after two nights with the baby to say that, without family support, she could not keep her. Much to her own surprise, Dr. Finck offered to adopt Isabelle on the spot. Her husband agreed without hesitation, and Isabelle officially joined Dr. Finck’s family a few weeks later, arriving home on Valentine’s Day.
“She still had feeding tubes when we brought her home,” Dr. Finck recalled. “Her first solid food was a chocolate chip cookie at Disney. That was her first trip as well.”
Growing Up Izzy
Today, Isabelle is an active seventh-grader, who enjoys listening to music (Z100), swimming and hanging out with friends. While she does not know yet what she wants to do after high school, she does count science among her favorite subjects and considers being able to drive and attend college first among the benefits of being the oldest sibling.
According to Madeline, Isabelle is a terrific big sister. “She’s kind and sweet, she helps me with my homework and always looks forward to playing with me,” she said. “She’s good with John Michael, too.”
Isabelle, who knows the story of how she came from her mother’s heart and not her belly, says she is thankful to have had her mom as her surgeon all those years ago.
“I am very happy about that,” Isabelle said. “I am glad that Mom was my surgeon because she could take the best care of me.”
“Izzy is one tough kid,” Dr. Finck added. “She has been through a lot.”
While the two disagree on whether or not Isabelle really likes yoga, they do enjoy spending time together. “My mom is cool because she always finds time for me,” Isabelle said. “I love going shopping with her and getting my nails done.”
Mom of the Year
Isabelle, who cheers for the Patriots with her parents—but prefers the Yankees to the Red Sox—says she loves that her family is always there for her. And if she had a chance to nominate her mom for “Mother of the Year” for Mother’s Day, she would.
“I would nominate her for working so hard at taking care of children,” Isabelle said. “Even when she comes home late, she always has time to make sure my homework is done.”
For Dr. Finck, the most rewarding thing about being a mom is watching her children grow. “They are proud of what I do, and their father and I are proud of them,” she said.
Throughout May, select Hallmark stores throughout Connecticut are collecting money for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Participating locations are Meriden, Shelton, Trumbull and West Hartford.